Presented on Wednesday, May 20, 2020 on line as part of the 2020 Spring Trouble Begins Lecture Series. This lecture was previously presented for the Chemung County Historical Society 2020 Civil War Lecture Series.
Mark Twain did not go to Elmira during the Civil War, so the title has some deliberate ambiguity. What Elmira held during the last year of the war was a prisoner of camp, and I am intrigued with the idea that Twain might have visited the site with the small dread that he could have been confined there or in a place like it if he has been captured during his brief foray into serving with a renegade group of would-be confederate soldiers. Most of the presentation focuses on his uncomfortable writing about the war in Life on the Mississippi. The revisions that appear between the early drafts of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that appear in Life and its later, more familiar, appearance fascinate me. Since Twain wrote most of Huckleberry Finn while sitting in his lair above Elmira, the title of the talk comes full circle.
Shirley Samuels is working on a monograph, currently titled "Haunted by the Civil War," on witnessing, testimony, and culture in the United States. She teaches at Cornell University in several departments, including American Studies, English, History of Art and Visual Studies, and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her books include Race and Vision in the Nineteenth-Century U.S. (2019); The Cambridge Companion to Abraham Lincoln (2012); Reading the American Novel: 1780-1865 (2012); Facing America: Iconography and the Civil War (2004); Companion to American Fiction, 1780-1865 (2004); Romances of the Republic: Women, the family, and Violence in the Literature of the Early American Nation (1996); and The Culture of Sentiment: Race, Gender, and Sentimentality in the 19th Century America (1992). In addition to Cornell University, she has taught at Princeton University, Brandeis University, and the University of Delaware. She has held fellowships from The American Council of Learned Societies, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the American Antiquarian Society, and the Huntington Library. She is a member of the 2020 class of Quarry Farm Fellows.